Sunday, February 1, 2015
Writing Process: The Physical and the Mental Guest post by Mark Collington
Whenever people ask me about my writing process, I’m always intrigued as to whether they mean the physical process of sitting down to write, or the mental process of deciding which words to write. So I guess I’ll try and talk about both.
I’m one of those nocturnal authors. I’ve always found that my most productive hours are between about 11pm and 4am. Not sure why, they just are. Maybe it’s the silence and the lack of external distractions. Maybe it’s that I get appalled when people suggest waking up earlier than 9:30am. When I do sit down to write, it’s in a dark room, usually just one lamp, and with my laptop (my handwriting is awful, left hander’s curse, and I can’t imagine anyone wanting to write an entire novel by hand and then type it up). I’ll settle down with a cup of coffee, a can of coke, and a glass of water (yes, all three at once, something nice about the temperature and flavor combination….and the caffeine high) and can sit there and just get involved in the writing.
People have often asked me whether I listen to music when I write. The answer is yes, music is an important part of my life, but when I’m writing I ban (give or take) anything with lyrics, and will sometimes have it so it’s barely audible. Any other time I love good quality vocals in my music, but they can be too distracting to the “writing process.” Its purpose becomes to provide a beat for the work, something to listen to in those moments when I need a short breather, and to block out some of the other, more disruptive noises—I used to live in the countryside surrounded by all manner of noisy night time creatures and farm animals, now I live three feet from the sidewalk in upstate New York and it’s a whole other type of night time creature. Some of my favourites to listen to are movie soundtracks (Hans Zimmer and Harry Gregson-Williams tend to provide well there), Apocalyptica, the instrumental/orchestral versions of Kamelot and Nightwish, and a small instrumental rock group from Albany called Yoma.
As for the mental side of things, you’ll see articles about how meticulously J.K. Rowling planned her series (with accompanied photo of scrawled blue biro), or hear advice of how you have to have a clear plan written down. That’s not how I work. I plan massively. In fact I have plots already in place that aren’t likely to appear for another seven books or so. But I don’t write it all down in notebooks. It’s truly a mental process—if it’s good enough to put in a book, then I’ll remember it.
Most of what I write in any one session I’ll have outlined mentally beforehand, and maybe thought of a few key phrases while driving, walking, standing in the shower, anytime I’m doing something that requires only a small amount of thought. And from there, I let the narrative and the characters take it away and flow freely.
In all honesty, I do occasionally take a few brief notes to keep track of my various plot strands, but nowhere near what I’m aware that some people do. I find it too restrictive—one of the first novels I wrote I planned out scene-byscene and the result held little feeling because it was just following a preordained plan. I have also looked back at the brief notes I’ve made after I’ve finished a section and seen something about where a plot is going, or what a character will do and thought “wow, I was really wrong, [that character] wouldn’t have done that…”
For me, the writing process is a source of great joy. It holds elements of quiet contemplation, or having a laugh with a group of your friends (even if these ones are imaginary). I can get very excited about what I’m doing, even if it’s 3 in the morning, dark, and everyone else is in bed.
About author Mark Collington
Mark Collington was born in the south-east of England in the early 90s. At the age of ten he moved to Mid-
While not into 'traditional' sports, Mark enjoy fencing and archery.
He spends a lot of time reading, listening to a wide range of music, and playing a variety of instruments.
About Kingdom Come
In the distant future, the world has been reconstructed into the Realms, controlled by a mysterious unseen entity called Kingdom. Jasper Montague-Smythe, a private detective in the 1930s L.A. Realm, is struggling with a stack of clients and a growing caseload. As he juggles disappearances, blackmail, kidnapping, and murder, he also finds himself custodian of a woman who doesn’t belong in his Realm. Drugged and confused, she needs his help. Can he afford to take the time? Can he really afford not to?
Yet an even larger problem looms: Kingdom’s Enforcers have started disappearing. Now it’s fallen to Jasper to find the cause and stop it before it’s too late.
Where to find Mark on the web: